One of the ways the media functions is also to demand accountability from duty bearers without fear or favour devoid of all the excesses that we currently see happening within the media landscape.
For some time now, a disturbing trend is emerging, especially on social media platforms, where we are seeing and experiencing some unethical and unprofessional practices all in the name of media freedom.
In the media space, many are discussing issues without the full facts. In the process, abusive words are used while people’s rights are trampled on. Some media practitioners and outlets do all manner of things unexpected of them.
To stem the tide, we have seen in recent times a section of society taking the law into their own hands to demand justice and hopefully sanitise the media environment.
More recent are the impasse between the Kumasi Traditional Council (KTC) and Oyerepa FM, in the Ashanti Region and the issue between the Ada Traditional Council and Radio Ada in the Greater Accra Region.
On Thursday, August 25, 2022, the KTC strongly suggested that Oyerepa FM, a radio station situated in Kumasi, stop broadcasting until further notice as a show of remorse for doing what the KTC deemed to be wrong and offensive.
That was because the Founder of the United Progressive Party, Akwasi Addai Odike, appeared on Oyerepa FM where he threatened to organise the youth in the Ashanti Region to demonstrate against chiefs to ask them to stop the illegal mining which was destroying water bodies and forest reserves in the region.
He had earlier alleged that the chiefs were involved in illegal mining in the country but this allegation did not go down well with the chiefs who slaughtered a ram and performed a ritual to banish Odike from Manhyia.
In the second instance, the Ada Traditional Council banned Ada Radio from providing coverage of the Asafotufiami Festival on August 1, 2022 after it had earlier banned the station from covering the launch of the festival held at Treasure Island at Ada on June 30, 2022.
The council took the decision because it also alleged that three hosts of the station’s programmes, while on air used unrefined language to describe chiefs in the area.
Clearly from the two instances, it was obvious the traditional authorities were determined to stamp their authority and right any wrong in their own way.
Not only did the chiefs try to exact their pound of flesh from media practitioners who went astray but many others had done their worst by beating and maiming journalists.
In the late Ahmed Hussein-Suale’s case, for instance, he was on January 16, 2019, shot dead by some unknown assailants at Madina on his way home. Hussein-Suale was a lead investigator with Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ Tiger Eye PI, an investigative organisation based in Accra.
Some journalists are also compelled to flee the shores of the country because of what they reported or said right or wrong.
My key concern is not to play the blame game and show who is right or wrong but an attempt to remind all of us on how Chapter 12 of Article 162 (1) of the 1992 Constitution enjoins us to deal with such media excesses.
Indeed, the Constitution offers persons offended by the media three choices to opt for.
The first is the right to a rejoinder where the offending media house is obliged to publish it. If not satisfied, the person has the second option of lodging a complaint with the National Media Commission (NMC) for it to settle the issue with the final choice of going to court for it to determine the next line of action.
Under no circumstance does the Constitution allow anyone to beat up a journalist or to demand his or her pound of flesh in anyway whatsoever because of excesses.
Tradition vs Constitution
I have heard from some traditional sources that the Constitution came to meet tradition and therefore tradition, culture and values must be revered.
Inasmuch as it may be true that the Constitution came to meet tradition, the Constitution under the current dispensation comes above anything and everybody including the President, politicians, religious leaders, academia, traditional authorities and anybody notwithstanding their status in society.
Every activity, therefore, comes under the Constitution and fortunately in Ghana, the Constitution also has a place for tradition.
It is for this reason why anyone who acts contrary to the Constitution will not be helping to nurture and build democracy.
It is not every time that one can be satisfied or happy with an outcome of a settlement. But once we have a democracy to build, so it must be for the betterment of the country.
Question to ask?
For both the Manhyia and the Ada incidents, the matter was thankfully resolved. However, the
question to ask is how come people who feel their rights have been abused, maligned or defamed shy away from the three choices available for redress, i.e a rejoinder, going to the NMC to complain or to the courts?
Either they do not trust in the system, or they think a rejoinder is not punitive enough. They also perhaps perceive that the NMC and the court will take longer periods to resolve the matter or they simply want to stamp their authority.
Role of NMC, GJA
For now, it is important for the NMC and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) while promoting and safeguarding the freedom and independence of the media must also encourage responsible practice as well as investigate, mediate and settle complaints made against the media in a swift, decisive and fair manner. After all, media freedom does not mean irresponsibility.
We in the media have no choice but to remain responsible. We cannot hide under media freedom to dabble in mischief, propaganda and peddle half truths.
The NMC and the GJA must help achieve higher professional standards among media practitioners and send out strong signals that they have what it takes to engender public confidence in their activities.
As a society, we can all work together to inject confidence in the choices available for redress. To build an enduring democracy takes time and we need to have faith, believe and trust in the democratic system. Any other action will rather undermine the democratic culture of the country and eventually erode the gains made so far.
Having said that, to demand accountability, we in the media need to up our game by being professional and doing what is right. In all that we do, we must avoid unethical and unprofessional practices. This will help society and our role as media practitioners will be meaningful and impactful.
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